Ongoing Healthcare Debate Regresses Nation
By Olivia Case, NCCJ Volunteer
The senate is taking us back to medieval times.
Protestors were arrested in Denver after holding a sit-in to resist the senate’s proposed health care bill. It lasted nearly 60 hours, and most of them were disabled. They chanted on live stream “Rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” They were charged, supposedly, with trespassing. Carrie Ann Lucas, an attorney for the state of Colorado, was charged with interference when she refused to tell the arresting officer how to move her power wheelchair. She is additionally concerned about her children who are also disabled, and what will happen with the services they receive which allow them to live in the community. For many people with disabilities, the risk of ending up warehoused, institutionalized, or in nursing homes is worth putting their lives on the line.
Security in our healthcare system has never been more paramount, and yet it staggers uncertainly through the political space.
Most Americans do not know that Obama Care and the affordable care act are synonymous. That’s just plain shocking.
That is where the mess of the health care situation in the United States begins. It’s approval rating has risen to 55 percent in the past nine months since the election of President Trump. Many young people like that they can stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, and they like the idea of of open exchanges, but having to buy an individual mandate sits less well with folks. In contrast, 53 percent of the population actually approve of single-payer healthcare, which would cover everyone nationwide through annual taxation.
Not surprisingly, health care has been a social justice issue for a while, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of inequality within the healthcare system.
“Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” In the moment, it reflected the work that King and that organization, the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), were doing to advance one of the since-forgotten pillars of the civil-rights movement: the idea that health care is a right. To those heroes of the civil-rights movement, it was clear that the demons of inequality that have always haunted America could not be vanquished without the establishment and protection of that right.
The current protests have many white activists centering media attention, but it’s people of color that will be disproportionately affected if ACA is abolished. Historically, after reconstruction, medicine evolved along the line dividing black and white people. This was when the United States developed decentralized, private, job-based health care fit only for a modernizing society that people of color to this day are shut out of.
As a white woman who comes from an upper middle-class family, I am speaking from a place of privilege. My health insurance is covered through my mom’s work. I deal with mental illness.
During my senior year of high school, the pressure to act neurotypical and perform well in school got to me. I experienced panic attacks and severe depression, and went through a couple of different therapists. Eventually, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and mood disorder not otherwise specified along with my anxiety.
I’ve also been able to do a couple of different intensive outpatient programs. There, I met people with a broader spectrum of mental disorders than I had previously encountered, and we were open to discussing our conditions. No one should have to overdose or get to a crisis point to receive this type of care and community, but those were the typical stories I heard and had dialogues around. There are long waiting lists for people coming in from the community. Lack of coverage leads to slippery slopes.
Conditions such as depression and anxiety disproportionately affect people of color. It’s the barriers to socioeconomic resources that increase their risk. When they do seek treatment, they drop out two to three times more frequently.
Ornella Mouketou is a black woman on Medicaid. She went to the emergency room in her early twenties, unemployed and depressed, saying she wanted to end her life. She got admitted and was checked on after leaving. Mouketou now works at CVS, but if she loses her coverage, she will no longer have access to medication and therapy. This will mean not being able to hold down her job. Mouketou’s hospitalization was followed up with a checkup for the McLendon mental health agency, a practice that reduces readmission rates.
As policy makers shout over ACA’s failures, it’s barely acknowledged that we never had a public option. How did this effect access and adequate coverage nationwide?
Democrats believe that that Obamacare covered too little at too high a cost, while republicans believe that it covers to much at the expense of taxpayers. The use of private markets required regulation, which many are unwilling to do.
Sadly, the better care reconciliation act, with its deceptive name, would have defunded planned parenthood, which would disproportionately affect women of color. For many, it is their only option for services such as cancer screenings, physicals, and contraceptive care. Insurers will be allowed to charge older Americans five time the typical rate while providing substandard options. The poverty rate for Asian seniors is double that of White seniors, and for some Asian subgroups is a high as 23 percent. Black and Hispanic seniors experience poverty rates of 20 and 18 percent, and are less likely to have sufficient retirement assets. People of color experienced historical increases in coverage under the ACA, which will be undone. This will all be while giving major tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.
Now, democrats are looking towards universal health care. I think most Americans are too.
About the National Conference for Community and Justice
Formed 1927, NCCJ is a nonprofit human relations organization that promotes inclusion and acceptance by providing education and advocacy while building communities that are respectful and just for all. Celebrating the diversity of races, religions, cultures, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations.
The opinions and information expressed through News Views posts are solely those of the individual authors and not representative of NCCJ’s overall stance on related issues unless specified. Any information presented as fact could entail inaccuracies or be incomplete. We encourage open discussion through our blog, and welcome respectful responses from everyone.
For more information on NCCJ’s variety of social justice educational programs, click here.